The call to prayer sounds well before my alarm goes off at 4:40 a.m., so I have the luxury of rolling over to catch a few more zzz’s while the echoes trail off in the wind. The sun is over the horizon by the time I make it down to breakfast, gilding the faces of the site crew gathered in the courtyard sleepily awaiting transport to the dig. The Zincirli 2013 season has begun.
We’ve eased into things over this first week with introductions and instruction, a trip to the city to register with the police and plenty of time to socialize. Afternoons over a cup of çay give way to evenings over a cold beer or two. Conversation here is always stimulating, regardless of beverage. We’re a very multicultural group: representing twenty-five universities, eleven nationalities and a broad range of studies. It’s hard to get through a day here without learning something new and unexpected.
Thursday’s trip to the ‘foreigner police’ in Gaziantep was a treat in many ways. To begin, the city is one of my favourite places. Arriving at the alley outside the police offices, a row of low tables and stools was quickly assembled and our wait began with a round of katmer – a breakfast pastry comprised of a thin pancake folded into many layers over a ricotta-like cheese, fried on a sizzling griddle to golden crispness before being drenched in honey and sprinkled with ground pistachio. It’s one of my favourite sweets – in a country that excels at sweets.
There are always twists and turns to the process of registering for Turkish residency – this year’s was that they were asking for more pictures than I had with me, necessitating a visit to an instant photo shop for more. Of course, when my turn came to present myself at the upstairs office, somehow two pictures were sufficient. I now possess enough snap-shots of myself for several seasons – flattering even, if not a little retouched. Having finished with our bureaucratic obligations – later than hoped but not than was expected, we were whisked off to a local shopping mall to find lunch.
I was lucky enough to be in company with others who thought we might do better than a meal in a fast food court, so we traipsed across the street and through a park to a kebab shop. None of the five of us were fluent in Turkish, but we pooled our dictionaries and came up with gestures and vocabulary enough to order a delicious and generous meal. This was followed by a stroll back through the park to a tea garden where we enjoyed a leisurely Turkish coffee. A visit to the impressive Zeugma mosaic museum rounded out our Fourth of July which, as it turns out, happens to also be my birthday. A memorable, well-spent day it was, topped off with a freshly baked walnut cake following our evening meal.
Conversation is still bubbling up from the courtyard, not quite drowning out this weekend’s wedding drums. The musical wail of the evening call to prayer is sounding. Ah, Saturday night in Fevzi Paşa – yet another of my favourite things!